[P] With stripes and spotted feathers, a storm of sunny weather
#1
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300+ ; NPCs → Naila, Koray, Naila's horse For Mel! Isthmus of Chignecto, heading toward Black River Reserve.

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The sun had made a reappearance in the sky -- a proper blue, now, and not the gradient of grey that threatened rain every day if it wasn't already pouring it down. No one was happier about this than Faizel, who trotted across grass spongy with moisture but warm as the rays on her saddled back. In places, it was almost dry, and she found herself smiling slightly.

Which her sister found remarkable enough to comment on, chasing the grin away until it manifested as a smirk on Naila's face instead.

Why can't you let me enjoy something simple? Faizel growled, and fell back when her sister led the brown horse ahead through a narrow pass in the trees. It opened up again, and she loped forward, moving with an ease that suggested familiarity with this dynamic. Even the conversation she traversed with more ease than usual; any Sapien following them would likely be curious of her calm, content demeanor.

This is my duty as a sister, replied Naila, then glanced at the horse's back. Among carefully balanced packs, a stocky, rufous owl perched, its eyes shut. Just as it's our half-brother's duty to abandon us. Why did he leave me the owl?

The auburn wolf scoffed quietly. I'll have a talk with him about it.

I genuinely meant to ask, Naila clarified. After the earthquakes, he's done nothing but fuss over the creature. She guided the thick horse around a fallen tree, which Faizel slipped beneath, moss dropping onto her shoulders. She shook it away.

He trusts you, I guess.

Naila looked thoughtful, but said nothing else. The silence between the siblings was a comfortable one, however, and the route they walked, while unfamiliar, was shaped by familiar protocol. Faizel loped ahead some distance before returning, and after a time dropped back to make sure no bandits followed them.

She did think she saw something in the trees this time, and barked to Naila. Careful.

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#2
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With all known danger since removed – from the madmen living in the mountains to the great shadow of the raven-witch – Blair felt elated. She had been freed from her confines and with her mother's blessing set out to resume her duties. In all truth she did not have very many of these, for she had never pursued a proper job and not thrown herself into the Apprentice role like her sister. Without a proper trader above her the idea seemed ludicrous.

This did not stop her from busying herself with the prospect. While she had healed she had spent many long hours with Reykja, talking over things, making things, and discussing all these ideas they had been carrying with them. They ran through their supplies towards the end of this and the finished products were organized and packed away.

Many of them had been repacked into saddlebags, and they bulged against the rump of her mount as she rode away from Salsola.

On advice from others Blair did not take her personal horse, who was still growing into his skeleton, but one of the many from their communal stock. She had picked the sturdy palomino and thought this a good choice – the rarer colors of Salsola's silver-black horses would give her away at once. This was very much the reason she wore sky-blue and (save a singular colored ring on her bag) there was no trace of the Thistle Kingdom upon her.

The horse and rider had thus far come across only wildlife, and Blair was debating whether to head north or west when she heard a bark from nearby. At once turning her mount towards the source, she soon found it – and a friendly grin spread across her face at the sight.

Hello! She called, lifting one hand in greeting.


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#3
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00+

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The stranger who approached them was an oddity to Faizel, who took heed of her doggish coloring at once. She was thick-furred, with brown hair falling in thick waves around a dark-masked face -- a face that sported a strange streak of white against her eye. This asymmetry caught Faizel's attention even as she studied the rest of her, searching for weapons and calculating the movements of the horse against the personalities of the pack animals she knew.

Naila, meanwhile, grinned and acknowledged her. Hello! she called back, her accent very thick -- a touch thicker, Faizel thought, than it usually was. She twitched her ears forward while her sister fell into her routine, dipping her head respectfully and fussing briefly at the owl that shifted on the saddle where it was jessed.

She looks like a tiger, Naila said to Faizel, smiling, and Faizel rolled her eyes before settling on her haunches and watching carefully.

You have a nice horse, went on Naila, grinning at the sturdy palomino. Good for carry many a thing, yeah?

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#4
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The foreigners – for the accent and the odd tongue that came with it betrayed this as much as their colors and dress – seemed pleasant enough, and Blair continued to smile at them. She disliked not knowing what they were saying (suspecting it was most likely about her) but gave no sign of this. A foul temper could ruin any opportunity for trade. These two, at least, seemed better off than the mongrel dogs she had run into in the southern forest.

Why thank you, Blair beamed, and leaned forward to give Zaria a few strong pats on the neck. Her feet left the stirrups and dangled as she resettled, as if she meant to dismount. She did not do this quite yet, however; Salsola had engrained suspicion of Outsiders into her mind and history proved this was not unreasonable. She's quite good, I must say, especially for carrying things. You have a good eye, she winked, and grinned.

The white patch and scar were not the only things changed by the fire. Only one of her eyes was still green.

Are you two travelers or traders? I must say I've never seen a bird quite like your owl before.


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#5
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200+

The wolfdog was particularly small, Faizel thought, but the way that she sat the horse was too practiced and confident to seem ridiculous, in spite of the mismatch. There were many things mismatched about her, and oddly enough this reminded Faizel of her father. From his clashing headband to his vivacious gestures and running tongue, Levent Kartal had always endeavored to be meaningful -- though this made him a memorable target as much as a memorable supplier.

No doubt Naila drew her own conclusions, as her posture subtly reflected the other's. I am sure good for other thing, she said conversationally, and stroked the neck of her own horse. This one is good for the carrying but -- this one is not very, ah, rayie, and she made a flamboyant gesture with her hand to translate the word.

She adjusted her covering -- the head scarf fell to cover her breasts as well, though her gestures did not speak of much modesty -- and smirked. Both? she answered. We are new in this land. Sapient, she said, indicating the direction of their pack with a turn of her muzzle. We came to Sapient when the alzzalazil came. This time her hand gestured to the fallen trees, and Faizel flattened her ears though she made no further movement.

I trade, yes. My sister no. This owl -- he belongs to my brother. He does not trade too. He is a maghfal, she huffed dismissively.

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#6
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It would not be hard for a dog – especially one with a great white patch over its eye – to be remembered in a place where wolves and coyotes dominated. Her appearance had become less wild since the fire, and this alone helped to hide her connections. Osrath would never escape Salsola properly; she was too much like their mother in this sense. Blair thought her brother resembled their father, though supposed this was just as much due to his mismatched eyes as anything else.

When Reykja had first told her about her eyes, she had not believed the witch. Now, she wondered if some of the magic her father had carried across the sea had been what truly saved them. It was not luck that got both girls out of that fire.

Blair's head cocked to better angle her upright ear towards the woman who spoke, and she noted the foreign words with interest. They had different sounds than the language the AniWayan had used, and sounded nothing like the throaty tongue of her mother's family or her father's quick Gaelic.

Sapient, though, she knew. Her blossoming smile betrayed this at once, though she as polite enough to hold her tongue until the woman finished explaining things.

Ah, she said, as if understanding. Well, how fortuitous it is that we crossed paths then. I myself am something of a trader, the wolfdog pressed one of her hands to her chest, then flipped her wavy hair over her shoulder. As it so happens I have quite a few things with me looking to be re-homed, so perhaps you and I could strike up a bargain, eh? Well, she shook her head and made a flapping motion with the same free hand, as if clearing the air. Depending of course on what it is you're after. I've heard Sapient has quite a treasure trove, or so other traders have told me.

She flashed a smile, pausing only to regain her breath, letting out an airy laugh.

Here we are, we haven't even introduced ourselves and here we are discussing business. My name is Macha, the brindled dog lied.


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#7
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300+

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The stranger knew of Sapient -- but neither Sapiens knew enough of their pack's connections to be wary of such a thing. After all, they'd gained a smattering of knowledge from speaking with others when they were still vagabonds.

Whether this was fortuitous for them or not had yet to be seen, but Naila's energy spoke of her optimism; she'd fully transformed into the trader that Faizel had witnessed time and time again. She was grinning at the other's admission and already eyeing the horse as if ready to place a bet on what goods she carried.

Treasure trove, she echoed, as if amused by this. I am not ranked so big in Sapient, so I will not give away treasures, she joked in her thick accent, but I have things, yes. We can see.

Her eyes were bright and curious as the stranger gave her name, and she answered: Naila Haniyah Kartal. She gestured to the Lupus wolf. My sister.

Faizel had been content to watch, but now she twitched her ears forward. Faizel, she said, not speaking with the same flourish that Naila had adopted from the loner. She remained tight-lipped, but this would allow the loner to draw her own conclusions. The warrior's task was to merely observe and ensure her sister's safety; whether she was seen as a guardian or a creature ignorant of the North American's tongue did not matter to her.

I have brought some things, Naila was saying, digging in the saddlebags. Ah. Rope, yes? she asked, and looked down at her sister. What do you think of the rope?

She spoke curtly, her eyes only reluctantly falling from the stranger. Make sure we have enough remaining. Who knows what the islanders have.

Rope, confirmed Naila. She held a length of it -- thick, braided. Madaffir, good, sturdy. She dipped a hand into a bag again, grasping at the neck of a glass bottle; at this, Faizel narrowed her eyes. Wine.

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Nothing under the circling moons is fated to last.</br>
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#8
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Sociable people were better suited for trade. It was easier to smile and laugh with strangers than certain members of Salsola's Family, who would lie through their teeth to find footholds. The climb was what mattered to them, and the climb forced people to find their superior strengths. Blair believed herself the best tracker she knew, but her size limited her fighting ability and her notable markings maximized her memorability – faulting her from birth against places where her vicious nature and silver tongue might be put to use.

Trade was a game not unlike politics, however. Blair had not pictured herself in such a place, but the pinnacle to which birthright might have allowed her seemed unobtainable.

It was easier to accept this now when other goals now were crushed beneath her grip. These days she had many things to smile about.

The gruff looking woman reminded Blair of her uncle, in a way, and she imagined her role benefited Naila much the same way. Now that it was safe to travel again, Blair felt confident in her ability to keep herself safe. Beyond that, she took eyes with her – like those of the blue-bird perched high in a nearby tree – and carried her weapon openly.

Turning so that she stood in the stirrup with her other foot dangling in the air, Blair undid a clever knot and freed two bulging bags. She jump-fell to the ground.

Of the two bags which came tumbling with her, one was quickly hoisted over her shoulder so that it hung below her hip. The other she pulled forward. This one was of a cruder leather, raw-colored where her own had been considerably altered. Both seemed to be of considerable well make; and other leather-smells and scented furs bulged from within as she pulled the mouth of the sack open so they could look.

Could I see the rope? She asked, already reaching for it. Did you make this? What was that word you said to describe it? Blair pressed, but her smile was open and friendly and her tone betrayed only genuine interest.


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#9
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00+

Trade was a game that Faizel was not unused to, though she didn't play it with smiling eyes and flourishing hands like her father and sister. Banter was a tool in bartering, and she was not complaisant enough to put others at ease. Her sister, meanwhile, was chameleonlike in her attempts to suit the brief impression that others often had of her, and her father had been so odd -- something that made her laugh as a puppy but frown and wonder as an adult.

The little striped wolfdog slid down from the horse, opening up a sack at her feet. Faizel leaned forward and sniffed despite her previous contentment to hang back, but she had every reason to be intrigued by the items within the bags as her sister, who even now peered down as she handed off the length of braided rope.

Madaffir, Naila repeated, and reached for her horse's mane to indicate a plait. I did not, not this, but I can. I nasujj, weave, too, a small bit, and make. She reached back for the saddlebags; her hand found small item, a bone needle that she lifted to show its point to the woman. Small bone things, I like. Her hand disappeared again, reappared with more bone -- this almost like a closepin in appearance, which she quickly used to pin a fold in her hijab.

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<div class="title">The deeds of men, as footprints in the desert.<br/>
Nothing under the circling moons is fated to last.</br>
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#10
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The rhythmic wagging of Blair's tail was less a measure of mood and more telling of her own energy – with while not as boundless in her younger days, had been pent up for many days while she had healed. These strange foreigners were the sort of oddity she had desired to come across. Too often had the Others been hostile. She did not account her own behavior at fault in these instances. This was more a fault of her personality than anything else, for while Blair might admit making mistakes she would never specify fully on the matter in question.

Madaffir, Blair repeated. The word came out wrong – she said it with Germanic tones and time – but smiled to show she meant no harm in such a thing. Foreign languages were mess important in the grand scheme of things, but as a trader, Blair saw the importance in them. It would be easier to tell if the conversation was about her then.

An excellent choice, the wolfdog praised, and hung the rope over her wrist. She was playing with one end of it, quickly tying first a slipknot (which she almost immediately undid to test the pliability) and then a smaller square one, which she tugged taunt between both hands. The foreign woman had not lied – it was good rope. She especially liked that it was not rough against her palms, though she thought this perhaps more suited for the pack than her own personal stock.

Weaving, eh? I bet you must make beautiful things, Blair smiled again. You know, I happen to know someone that deals in that – fiber, that is – and would love to see what could be made with it. Would you perhaps be interested in something like that? I could bring it to you once I've acquired it, if you're living in Sapient.


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#11
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[/html] Macha made knots in the rope, and a grin broadened on Naila’s face as she surmised what the sharp-eyed trader was doing. Her smile was confident and bright, and her tail wagged behind her; she was certain of the worth of her goods, and it was easy enough to feign confidence and bluff even if she was not. A trader was often a liar, Levent had taught his offspring, and while all but Benji had verbally disapproved, Naila seemed to have taken the lesson to heart.0

She was dangerous, Faizel knew, if not in the same way that the lean fighter was.

She was not dangerous to Macha, however, and her ears twisted up with interest when the striped woman mentioned a dealer in fiber. “That sounds wonderful,” she said, and while the word was a mouthful, she gestured graciously to convey her meaning. “Do you want rope today?” she went on, glancing down at the other’s bag of goods. “We can, ah, a trade at Sapient, yes.” She grinned again.

Faizel looked on cautiously. [html]
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Nothing under the circling moons is fated to last.</br>
</div>

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#12
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All strangers – all Outsiders – were dangerous. This was the truth of her world. Blair did not forget it even as she lied and forgot her true life for a while, weaving elaborate tales that were not her own. She would only get better about this as she learned more, and saw more, and recalled things like the language of all these Others or what it was they did or did not do.

I'll take the rope, Blair told the hooded woman, and undid her knots. She looped the cord over her palm, coiling it with the same expertise. It might take me a little while, to get in touch with my friend, she smiled here. But I'll be sure to bring enough material to make it worth your time.

Naila was wearing cloth, and that alone was proof to Blair that this was not a bluff. While her distrust of foreigners was aligned with her distrust of Outsiders, it did not benefit her trading relationship to act in such a way. The nature of its secrecy further provided her ample opportunity to measure her own ability against theirs, worldly or not.


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